President Seeks a Deal Neither Mini Nor Maxi
“We're not dealing just with talking points about corporate jets or other 'loopholes.' The legislation the President has asked for … cannot pass the House, as I have stated repeatedly… [S]uch discussions will be fruitless until the President recognizes economic and legislative reality.”
If you read between the lines of President Obama’s otherwise anodyne remarks Tuesday on the state of debt ceiling negotiations, you see the president holding on to his original goal of a $2 trillion debt deal.
There have been growing calls from both parties for a big deal on debt that would change the way Washington taxes and spends. Bill Clinton started the latest brushfire with his remarks to all the eggheads in denim shirts at the Aspen Ideas Festival. His message to Obama was to push for a corporate tax overhaul that lowered rates and closed loopholes, a suggestion usually heard from conservative quarters like the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page.
Clinton suggested a “mini deal” that would avert a government shutdown and allay concerns from credit markets about a fiscal impasse so that Obama and Republicans could keep working on the big-ticket items. Republicans are open to that idea, even if there is no larger deal later on. The mini-deal would allow the GOP to secure the nearly $1.5 trillion in cuts already agreed to and get another chance before the election to force Obama to accept another round of reductions.
While Obama ditched the scolding tone of his press conference last week, it was also clear that he was interested in neither a mini-deal or maxi solution. Obama said he would not “kick the can down the road” with a stopgap deal, but also insisted that the deal had to be done within two weeks.
That approach leaves only one way forward, which is expanding on the cuts already agreed to but not going all the way. There simply isn’t time to start ripping up the tax code or remaking Medicare.
Obama needs a $2 trillion increase to make sure that he can get through the election, but can’t afford to further dispirit liberals by agreeing to significant cuts to entitlement or welfare programs. But the president also needs to not have any cliffhanger endings on the debt debate. The already deteriorating economy is not in position to absorb any shocks, and Obama’s 2012 bid will almost certainly rise or fall on the state of the economy.
The terms laid out by Speaker John Boehner call for a dollar in cuts for every dollar in new debt, and that has seemingly held up in the effort to reach $1.5 trillion. The president wants to get to $2 trillion in new borrowing by adding $400 billion in new taxes over the next decade and reducing payments to nursing homes and other providers under Medicare and Medicaid, a move in keeping with his health care law’s goals.
It’s smart politics by Obama. If he agrees to a mini deal in service of a long-term solution, Obama could find that the current sense of urgency in both parties for a deal would dissipate. Obama knows that he is headed into another fiscal showdown with Republicans in just two months as the federal fiscal year comes to an end. As soon as a deal is reached on this, the countdown to the next possible government shutdown begins anew. The president has to leave himself some bargaining chips for that round.
The Journal and others want Republicans to call Obama’s bluff and agree to closing the tax loopholes and changing accounting practices and go all in for a tax overhaul. But given the welter of regional interests involved and the basic suspicion inside the GOP of anything that looks like a tax increase, such a move could end the uneasy unity inside the Republican House caucus.
It’s one thing for Boehner to sign off on a bipartisan deal that will pass with more Democrat than Republican votes, it’s another thing for him to have to whip votes for a mega-deal. Boehner has been negotiating not as a man who directs his caucus but one who speaks for it.
The Thursday meeting scheduled for the White House is unlikely to bear much fruit simply because of its size and the inclusion of minor players like Nancy Pelosi. But Obama, Boehner and the chief negotiators in the Senate, Majority leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will have a chance to lay out the terms of a possible deal and gauge reactions from the right and left.
But what they are unlikely to do is expand the purview of the talks to anything larger or smaller than the deal at hand.
Frontrunner Romney Free to Seek Campaign Cash Overseas
-- Support for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in the latest WMUR/University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll.
Mitt Romney is in London, England today, not New London, New Hampshire.
If you had any question about Romney’s secure status as the Republican frontrunner, his schedule for today should satisfy them.
Romney feels confident enough to leave the country to hobnob at a Mayfair mansion with wealthy Americans living abroad while his competitors are squeezing shoulders and giving stump speeches in early primary states. It’s a risky play for a candidate who is thought too elite for a heartland party.
But why shouldn’t Romney feel so confident?
He just raised $18.3 million in three months and has found his political voice as the chief critic of President Obama’s economic policies.
Conservative Republicans are growing in their admiration for Rep. Michele Bachman, but no one has yet to unite the right against the more moderate Romney. Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be the guy to do it, but he’s yet to commit to the race.
(Though Perry’s top adviser, Dave Carney, told the New York Times that Perry was ready to make peace with his predecessor, George W. Bush, if Perry decides to make a run.)
Meanwhile, the rest of the field is in a bit of a shambles.
Newt Gingrich is asking donors to help get him out of a nearly $1 million debt incurred by a disastrous and almost certainly doomed presidential bid. Cynics might say that Gingrich is only staying in the raise to retire his debt. That’s like asking your girlfriend for gas money to leave town.
Tim Pawlenty has enough money in the bank to make it through the summer and keeps picking up key support (his hiring of Mike Huckabee’s daughter and campaign manager, Sarah, is a pretty big deal), but his poll numbers have been sliding. With Bachmann looking like a more credible bet to win Iowa, that leaves Pawlenty, the most viable anti-Romney now in the race, without a path to the nomination.
The best news for Romney, though, may be the fizzle of Jon Huntsman’s much-hyped candidacy. Despite tapping his own family fortune and receiving lavish coverage from an establishment press utterly smitten with the mavericky ways of former Utah governor and Obama appointee, Huntsmania has come to naught. Huntsman is stuck at the bottom of the third tier, trailing long-shot candidates like Rick Santorum and Herman Cain.
Huntsman’s flop is such good news for Romney because it means that the former Massachusetts governor won’t have to cover his left flank to hold on to New Hampshire’s delegates. Romney can’t afford a loss there or in Florida, and with Huntsman’s failure to launch, Romney won’t have to abandon his frontrunner strategy or his bid to woo leery conservatives to fend off an attack from his left.
The conventional wisdom said that Romney’s support for mandatory health insurance, Mormon faith and patrician ways were disqualifiers for the Republican nomination, but so far, no one has been able to lay a glove on him.
With lots of money in the bank and his rivals in disarray, Romney has little to lose from a trip to Blighty.
Obama and Holder Won’t Relent on Civilian Terror Trials
“Why is it so hard for President Obama to acknowledge what the majority of Americans already know: foreign terrorists are enemies of America. They should not be tried as common criminals, but as terrorists in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.”
-- Statement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on Somali terror suspect Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame.
The arrest of a suspected Somali terrorist accused of working with terrorists in his country and Yemen in plotting attacks on the United States has reignited the debate over the Obama administration’s efforts to end military detention and trials for foreign fighters.
The case of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame has also brought attention to the legal twilight in which the Obama administration is operating when it comes to the issue.
While foreign fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq are being corralled in secret prisons in those countries, the administration has focused on killing bad guys in countries where troops have trouble snatching baddies. Remote-control drone strikes avoid the need for detention or anxious questions about interrogations.
Obama’s failure to close the Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp in the face of strenuous, bipartisan objections in Congress has been one of his most notable unfulfilled promises from the 2008 campaign. Obama pilloried the Bush administration over the prison camp and the use of harsh interrogation practices. Given Obama’s escalation of the Afghan war, secret operations around the world, intervention in Libya and extension of domestic wiretapping, the administration is eager not to further antagonize the anti-war voters who launched his rise to the White House.
But unable to close the camp and unable to import its terrorists for civilian trails, the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder, have gone to some unusual lengths to keep advancing the ball.
In the case of Warsame, that meant keeping him in the brig of a naval vessel at sea for several months to avoid any jurisdictional questions. He was interrogated in secret by the military and then handed over to civilian authorities for a stealthy, holiday weekend trip to New York for prosecution.
While many in Congress assumed that they had thwarted Obama and Holder on the importation of terrorists, the truth is that they have simply forced the administration to play a longer game.
Oh, And About that Iraq Withdrawal…
"Any request to keep troops in Iraq beyond the agreed upon withdrawal date of December 2011, would have to come from the Government of Iraq and would be given serious consideration by this Administration.”
-- Senior White House official to FOX News colleague Mike Emanuel on reports that the administration is offering to keep 10,000 American troops in Iraq beyond President Obama’s promised end-of-year withdrawal.
Iranian meddling, Middle Eastern unrest and old grudges are turning Iraq back into a very violent place, and many in the Pentagon worry that the gains of the 2007 surge will be wiped out if the current trend is not reversed.
To that end, the White House is trying to work a deal with the Iraqi government to keep a small U.S. force in the country after the agreed-upon departure date.
President Obama, elected in large measure because of his early opposition to that war and pledge to withdraw American troops, is now looking for a way to extend the U.S. commitment there.
The irony, though, is that after all of the president’s military interventions and expansions around the world, the flip-flop on Iraq will likely garner little notice.
***Today on “Power Play w/ Chris Stirewalt”: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa and Susan Ferrechio of The Washington Examiner. Tune in at 11:30 am Eastern at http://live.foxnews.com/ ***
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.